These brief guidelines provide practice tips for managers and staff on successful delegation.
There are 5 levels of delegation. Make sure both you and staff member are clear about your expectations as manager in any given situation. It’s all too easy to talk at cross-purposes without realising it and this can create misunderstanding, frustration and conflict. Explain which option applies:
We’ll discuss, I’ll decide.
We’ll discuss, we’ll decide.
We’ll discuss, you’ll decide.
You decide, ask me if you need help.
As a rule of thumb, try to work at the level that allows most freedom for decision-making.
Respect the level of authority that has been agreed. It’s tempting to change the rules if things aren’t working out in the way you had expected. Give specific feedback but don’t step in and take over unless the staff member’s actions are creating serious risk.
When delegating work, check the staff member has the knowledge and skill required. If not, explore what and how development support will be provided and include opportunities for on-going feedback and review.
Agree clear expectations and parameters from the outset. Explain which of the following applies:
I don’t mind what you end up with as long as it will serve the purpose.
What you end up with must meet these criteria – you decide what best does this.
You must end up with this – how you do it is up to you.
You must go about it this way – you sort out the details.
Ask your manager to be very specific about what they expect from you. Clarify what is negotiable and what isn’t, e.g. what the end result should be, how it should be done, when it must be completed.
If you are unsure about the authority you have to complete a given task, ask for clarification.
If you have agreed to do something, do it.
If you feel the level of authority delegated to you has not been respected, say so.
Be proactive in flagging up to your line manager any issues or problems arising on route, along with suggestions for solutions. Don’t wait until crisis point before alerting your manager of potential delays or other changes to agreed outcomes.
Managers and staff
If you experience any concerns, raise them early rather than allowing problems or misunderstandings to escalate.
Raise problems or concerns with the other party directly. Be specific (e.g. this is the problem, this is why it concerns me, this would be a good solution for me), try to put yourself in the other person’s shoes and commit to find win-win solutions.